When we think "self-centered," unpleasant images often come to mind; but it becomes important in the context of self-actualization to distinguish SELF centered from EGO centered. During the holidays these can include stress over making sure we look good by buying and receiving the greatest possible gifts. You may find yourself obsessing over ensuring your special someone gets a gift that beats the one their ex gave them last year--even though you may be experiencing the pangs of the current economy. You may have friends and relatives running ragged amidst the chaos of the season, spending money they don't have to make sure that their holiday feasts, trees, decorations, accessories and gift giving tops everyone else's. This obsession is ego-centric, not SELF centered. It is ego-centric to allow oneself to be defined by the food we serve and the gifts we give; which can make the holidays very unpleasant.
I remember many Christmas eves when I witnessed my aunt slaving away in the kitchen. When it was time, we would finally ravage a stellar Italian midnight feast while she watched exhausted and barely able to eat. I know that this is an expression of her love for us, but I have never asked my aunt if she knows how much we love her and that we know she loves us, regardless of what she cooks.
There have also been many times that I could not buy everything I wanted for my loved ones. However, at a relatively early age I had the awareness that allowed me to move into my personal center and find true meaning in the holidays. The holidays, for me, are always about experiencing joy, love and abundance internally and sharing them with my loved ones.
How do you distinguish SELF centered from EGO centric? For a moment, listen to the thoughts constantly playing in your head. They may be the ones stressing you out about whether you can afford to buy that very important person in your life the new Macbook they want so badly. The part of you having the thoughts is your EGO. The part of you that can hear them is the true essence of who you are, which lives beyond your mind and body. It is your-SELF.
Your Self is constant and always present. When you are centered in your SELF you are directly connected to source. Your source is the essence of what you are made of. It is universal consciousness, divine intelligence, spirit, God, love, authenticity and whatever that is for you. When you become truly "SELF-centered," you allow yourself to be led by your true, loving essence. You also become aware of all humans emanating from this source. It is in your center where you can resolve self-judgment, which elicits a greater experience of peace, love for self and others, harmony, true generosity, and joy; which are all qualities of the holiday season.
We see in our culture how making ego-centric rather than SELF-centered choices are paramount through an obsessive desire for material acquisition. Even as the economy dwindles and people lose their jobs we are inundated with messages about the importance of consumptions. This is painfully illustrated by the death of a Wal Mart worker by a mob of shoppers on Black Friday. The horror of this tragedy makes it even more crucial that each of us move into our personal center and allow the qualities that reside there to come forth this holiday season. It is a grave disservice to each other when we allow our egos to define us by our possessions and the gifts we give rather than our true, loving essence.
The alternative I offer to you this holiday season is to center yourself in your SELF, which will allow you to fully embody the presence of internal peace and love throughout the holidays.
Some ways you can begin to become SELF-centered:
Bring your awareness fully to where you are and what you are doing at any given moment. First, bring your awareness to your breath. Literally say to yourself, "breathe in, breathe out" as you inhale and exhale. You will start to feel centered, peaceful and relaxed. Bring your awareness to smells, colors, feelings, and sensuality (the water on your hands while washing dishes). This is an excellent way to support yourself in navigating the sometimes stressful holiday gatherings we feel obligated to attend.
2) Manage Negative Self Talk
Manage negative self-talk by intercepting negative judgments. Start talking to yourself like you are your best friend. For example, at some point during the holidays you may have the thought, "Wow, that gift he got is so much better than the one I gave him." If you are aware of having the thought, acknowledge it, and change it. Changing it might sound like, "My loving essence defines me," (not my gift giving).
Practice compassion in stressful situations where you might hastily judge another. For instance, it might be challenging as a gay man or lesbian to be having dinner with a family member you know voted for Proposition 8. Bring your awareness to your breath, notice your judgments, and although it may be challenging, allow yourself to consider that that person's life is as important to them as yours is to you. Also, remind yourself that love is the essence of who we are as human beings, regardless of what we perceive as hurtful actions. This moves you into your center and the recognition that we all emanate from the same source. There may be a challenge to deal with. However, you can maintain the love and harmony of the holiday when you move beyond your ego, and into compassion.
SELF-centeredness as opposed to egocentric moves you into connection with your true essence and the loving essence of the holidays. It shifts you to being fully present in each moment where you dwell in love, peace, and harmony. When you are SELF-centered the greatest gift you can give to others and yourself becomes accessible. It is the gift of your true presence, which is the gift of love.